Author's note: this piece is a point-counterpoint, academic discussion of issues currently circulating in the LGBT community. These points in no way represent my personal beliefs on the issue: as a transwoman and LGBT activist I want to see solidarity and resolve in furthering our political goals. I feel that the discussion will strengthen our understanding of the most basic question to a movement: who are we? This is an important conversation that I feel must take place.
We are a diverse community, indeed. Beyond the unification of media messages for political action, the need for solidarity regarding upcoming congressional votes, and the perception of our four (or five, or six, etc) letter acronym to represent a "whole community," we have many opinions on what is important to furthering L, G, B, and T causes. If nothing else I learned from my previous post, it is this fact.
It's okay to have differing political opinions on an issue. If we didn't have different opinions, there'd be no need for sites like this, or for that matter any need for political action. The beauty of US politics is that it is an adversarial system, based on voluntary participation, and people can use their voice, energy, or money to support any cause they darn well please. As a wise man once told me, politics is like Baseball for Big Kids, only the game sometimes comes with high stakes for people like you and me. It's a game, and in games we must be willing to take our licks to taste victory.
As proof that a) I'm open to different opinions, and am willing to see beyond my bias; and b) I'm not above a little thought experiment for furthering the discussion, I'd like to offer up a counterpoint to my previous post. Many commentators held the position that trans people have hijacked the greater LGB movement to forward their own needs. Politics are a dirty game, where the most cold-hearted plays often bring the greatest returns. With that in mind I offer a few cold, logical, professional points as to why trans people should be removed from LGB legislation, media, and advocacy. It is strategic: however, it is not kind.
Lack of monetary contributions:
Trans people have little money to fund large-scale activism. Statistics show that 35% of trans people are unemployed, and over 50% make less than $15,000 a year, mostly due to employment inequities caused by discrimination. They are incapable of maintaining the long-term cash flow required to push their needs through legislation.
Lack of numbers:
Few statistics exist to show the prevalence of trans people, but most ballpark figures pin ratio of trans people to total population at anywhere between 1:1,000 to 1:50,000. Pro-trans legislation cannot hope to offer the same return-on-investment as greater LGB legislation, as a ratio of dollars spent to number of people affected.
Lack of activists:
Further reducing the political impact of transgender needs is the lack of activists within the trans community. Some transgender people, faced with abject discrimination and social Othering, choose to live in stealth. This invisible population rarely contributes to discussion, rarely volunteers for LGBT community action, and generally doesn't get involved with the needs of the trans community.
Proportion of opposition to population too large:
Trans people are few in number, but opposition to trans-inclusive legislation is great. Separating trans people from LGB legislation would allow politicians leeway in the form of compromise, as gender identity clauses could be traded away to further LGB rights. (See SPLENDA, and the overwhelming trend of ENDA discussion to hinge on "bathroom bill" needs.)
Social stigma of a mental disorder:
Trans people, unlike LGB people, are considered mentally disordered according to the DSM-IV, which allows a rhetorical "in" to say that the community as a whole is disordered. Removing trans people from LGB legislation allows a "clean-slate" marketing message: "We got rid of the disordered part." This especially allows masculine gay and bisexual men to distance themselves from the "wannabe women" or "feminine guy" stereotype, as the advocacy community would no longer feel the need to include message-confusing trans voices on their docket.
Trans people not accepted by general public:
Finally, the image of trans people - namely, trans women - is difficult for run-of-the-mill Americans to accept. The "man in a dress" message makes LGB legislation too easy to kill. Removing transgender from the acronym would allow the LGB movement to rebrand itself as "everyday American people" that act just like the average John or Jane Doe.
There it is: clear as crystal. Cutting trans people out of the LGB spectrum will undoubtedly make gaining civil rights for LGBs easier. No bathroom bill attacks, no "ugly men in dresses" comments, no attacks on gay men as being "less manly" or "wannabe women," and trans people's rights can be used as a bargaining chip for furthering gay rights. To cisgender LGB people looking at cold, hard political strategy, it is a slam-dunk move, almost guaranteeing that much-needed legislation will happen at a faster pace. The question is this: will it be worth it? Is it worthwhile to banish a minority from a minority to expedite returns for the minority's majority?
Is this the way the community wants to win? I'd rather know the answer now than later, so I can figure out where my advocacy energies need to go.